New Brunswick

Saint John police warn of steep rise in crystal meth use in city

Saint John police are warning about the dangers of crystal meth and methamphetamine pills after seeing a "dramatic increase" in the sale and use of the highly addictive street drugs in the city.

Officers called to 88 related incidents so far this year, up from 21 in 2017

Police forces need to work together to combat the spread of crystal meth across the province, said Saint John Police Force Sgt. Darin Clarke, the head of the criminal intelligence unit. (Ontario Provincial Police)

Saint John police are warning about the dangers of crystal meth and methamphetamine pills after seeing a "dramatic increase" in the sale and use of the highly addictive street drugs in the city.

The number of crystal methamphetamine-related calls for service in Saint John so far this year has already surpassed last year's total by 66 per cent, said Sgt. Darin Clarke, the head of the force's criminal intelligence unit.

Police have responded to 88 incidents to date, up from 71 in 2018 and 21 in 2017, he said, noting the numbers could be even higher because some crystal meth calls might get logged as something else, such as a breach of the peace, or a suicide.

Earlier this summer, the Saint John Police Force's street crime unit and members of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force seized a quantity of crystal meth and up to 500 so-called ice pills, which are methamphetamine pills stamped with the word "ice."

"I would say crystal meth is taking over from crack cocaine and cocaine," said Clarke.

The cost is comparable, roughly $80 to $100 a gram, but the euphoria from the powerful stimulant is extremely high and lasts longer, he said.

Crystal meth, known as "jib" on the street, is also more readily available because it can be produced locally with ingredients that are legal.

People can become addicted "instantly," said Clarke, and while most start out by smoking or snorting it, many soon start injecting, trying to recreate their initial high, which can result in an overdose.

Saint John police say users can be violent and unpredictable, suffering from paranoia and hallucinations. (CBC)

Users can be easy to spot, said Clarke. They may appear "completely out of it" or seem like they're having a seizure, and many have sores or scabs on their arms or face from scratching because of the skin-crawling sensation the drug creates, he said.

Some users become so addicted they pick off their scabs to smoke them for the small amount of drug they contain, said Clarke. "It's that severe."

"The unpredictability of what the drugs can do to your body is frightening," said acting Sgt. Clay Tremblay of the street crime unit.

"What is being advertised is not what you always get" either, he said. Dealers sometimes mix the drug with other powder substances to make more money.

"The street crime unit has seen de-wormer laced in drugs and instances where worms have been seen crawling out of users' skin."

About 14.5 kilograms of suspected meth was seized during five raids in the Moncton and Fredericton areas last month as part of a joint forces investigation, said RCMP. (RCMP)

The comedown from the high can be violent and include aggression, paranoia and hallucinations.

"That is the danger for the public and officers," said Tremblay. "Users under the influence sometimes exhibit amazing strength, use weapons to fight off what they see as demons, and have absolutely no memory of what they have done or said once the high wears of."

Clarke expects the crystal meth problem in Saint John and across New Brunswick will get worse before it gets better, based on the experience of the United States over the past couple of years.

He hopes to see increased collaboration among the province's various police forces to combat the growing problem.

"I think it's crucial," he said.

"Criminals know no boundaries and that is why it is imperative all police agencies continue to work together and share information to get these illegal drugs removed from circulation."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.